The best advice we ever got as a young person was to travel. The world is at your feet. Explore it. Push your limits. Learn by doing. You might find that plowing through your peak years doing exactly what the world expects of you is overrated.
Traveling leaves you speechless, then turns you into a storyteller.
Here are five important reasons to travel in your 20’s, plus the answers to the obstacles every young traveler faces: how to fund your trips and travel cheaply.
1. You’ll define your happiness
Do you know what happiness means to you? If not, work to define it. Your 20’s are a very impactful, fun, and meaningful time, and you should spend time figuring out what makes you happy. It can be easy to spend much of your 20’s feeling unsure of your future or what you want to do, or the opposite – laser-focused on a career or path you think you want. It’s absolutely ok to let go a little, try new things, and focus on your happiness. When you are 100% sure of the things that make you happy, you’ll spend the rest of your life building your life around it and ultimately lead a more positive and fulfilling life.
2. It will drive your creativity
Some of the best ideas just appear when you’re not even trying, and we’ve found this to be especially true while traveling. Creativity can be easily ignited when you’re at ease and happy while simultaneously being exposed to new things through all five senses. You might think of your best ideas while traveling by train around Europe or sitting on a beach in Southeast Asia, and be inspired to act on them. Creativity spurred by your travels has the potential to change your entire life – maybe you’ll finally start your own business, change your career path, or keep traveling to places you’ve always dreamed of.
3. You’ll meet new and different people
Making in friends in college is relatively easy, and many of those people will remain in your life post-graduation. But making friends in your later 20’s can be a bit more difficult once many people start dedicating themselves to a career, get married, or even start a family. By traveling, you’ll not only meet people of all sorts of backgrounds and lifestyles most likely very different from your own, but you’ll also…
4. You can build your resume
Having international experience is a big resume booster to many potential employers – it shows that you’re curious, driven, and have a broad understanding of the world. Why not hit two birds with one stone and work while traveling to gain valuable experience AND feed your wanderlust?
There are many ways to build your resume while traveling. Consider volunteering abroad with groups like Habitat for Humanity, interning at international NGO’s like UNICEF, joining the Peace Corps, or working in exchange for lodging with groups like Wwoofing International. Not only will you be doing some social good while traveling, but you’ll also likely gain valuable language skills, cultural awareness, and varied professional expertise.
5. You’ll Find yourself
This might be cliche, but it’s true. Traveling gives you the sense of freedom, independence, and clarity of mind to really figure out who you are. It plucks you from your comfort zone and places you in new places with different ways of life, which allows you to examine your life and self from 10,000 feet. Putting yourself out there in the world, especially in your 20’s when you’re figuring all sorts of things out, will make a strong impact and drive you to learn more about yourself than you ever thought possible.
Ideas for Funding Your Trips
So inspirational stuff aside, the reality is you need to money for airfare, food, lodging, etc. We get it. The downside to spending your 20’s traveling is that you probably don’t have the funds to support it. But don’t fret – if there’s a will, there’s a way. Here are a few ideas for funding your travel:
Many colleges and universities offer scholarships for study abroad programs, or package programs that end up being cheaper (and possibly more convenient) than planning everything on your own. Plus, studying abroad is a great experience for making new friends and connections, taking part in once-in-a-lifetime cultural experiences like a home stay with a foreign family, and gaining valuable language skills.
Set a Savings Goal
We all want to save more for the future, but setting a clear goal will urge you to actually meet it. It helps to write down all of your monthly expenses, including miscellaneous things you spend money on or entertainment you may not always budget for. Then, figure out where you can cut back a few dollars, and stash that money instead in your travel fund. Every little bit helps. Keep your eye on the goal – maybe literally, by setting up an inspiration board of the place you’re planning to visit – and make it happen.
Get a Side Gig
Earning money on the side of your regular job can be easier than you think. More and more companies are looking for freelancers, and sites like Elance or Upwork make it easier for anyone looking to use their skills for some extra dough to find jobs and apply. If you’re a good writer, consider doing some freelance copywriting; if you take great photos, sell them to creative marketplaces or stock photo sites; if you have some Adobe Illustrator or Photoshop skills, set up a portfolio and take on some freelance graphic design work.
You can also go the manual labor route, and consider babysitting, bartending or serving, or cleaning homes for some extra side cash to add to your travel fund. The easiest way to really earn from a side gig is to diversify your funding streams, be creative, and know how to market yourself.
Let your family and friends (and maybe even strangers) contribute to funding your dream travels via crowdsourced personal fundraising platforms like GoFundMe and IndieGoGo. Anyone can set up a campaign and a goal amount and solicit donations from the online community. This method is particularly successful if you are looking to make a difference in the international community, have a unique idea, or have a compelling story to share – so be creative and let your passion for travel shine.
How to Travel Cheap
There are lots of hacks for traveling on the cheap so you can see more and do more. With a little bit of effort, creativity, and planning, you’ll be on a flight to your dream destination.
Stay at Budget Accommodations
One of the most expensive parts of world traveling, beyond airfare, is lodging. But, if you can forgo the jacuzzi tub and 500-thread count sheets, there are tons of budget accommodation options out there. Staying at hostels is not only cheaper, but can ultimately be an entire experience in themselves that is particularly fitting for young travelers looking to meet new people and have a good time. Or, book a great place through airbnb – renting an apartment in Paris is 1,000 times better than any hotel room. If you’re really adventurous, try couchsurfing for the cheapest place to stay.
Find the Best Flights
There’s a science behind finding the best deals on flights that can make or break your travel fund, but luckily there are tons of resources for finding cheap airfare. Knowing the perfect time to buy is the key to formula, and apps like Hopper and Skyscanner make it easy to score the lowest fares and book cheap flights. Plus there’s Google flights, which is built right into the Google Chrome browser, and Kayak, the travel search engine.
Take Advantage of Free Activities
Some of the best things in life are free! You can definitely cut down on trip expenses by planning free activities into your itinerary. Consider visiting free museums, wandering through public city parks, and taking hikes in free-to-the-public nature preserves. Or, find a hidden beach without an entrance fee, window shop down city streets, or simply walk around and snap photos. A lot of times you’ll discover something you hadn’t planned to, and you can learn a ton about the character of a place by hanging out where the locals do.
Don’t (Always) Dine Out
Dining out while abroad is something we would never advise against, because we’re firm believers that eating local is one of the best ways to experience a city or place or culture. However, you don’t have to dine out three times a day every single day while traveling. Consider taking advantage of shared hostel kitchens to prepare your own food, or pack a good ol’ picnic for mid-day eating while out enjoying your planned activities.
What motivated you to travel as a young person, and how did you manage to afford it?